I am starting my 10th year in my district. I am no longer the rookie at the bottom of the salary scale looking up. But I am also not maximizing my standing. With coaching and kids, life gets in the way.
It has also been on my mind because Talks with Teachers makes a modest income each month from The Best Lesson Series: Literature and Amazon commissions (See my disclosure statement). It is not enough for a mortgage payment or anything like that, but it is enough to keep the lights on in my little corner of the Internet.
Teachers and Money
When you read about teachers and money there seems to be only two camps. Either teachers have it easy with summers off and guaranteed jobs for life. Or it’s the long hours, the burnout rates, and the decline of the livable wage.
Is the only option on the table for teachers to slug it out for 30 years and move up the salary scale? Or must we leave the classroom and pursue opportunities like administration?
For teachers that love teaching like myself, what do you do? How do you increase your wealth? After school supervision? Coach a sport? Take on the honors society?
Do you have to stay at school well past the last bell to earn more?
Maybe there is a better way.
Epictetus, the Stoic philosopher, saw wealth arising from having few wants, not acquiring great possessions. Thoreau saw that “a man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.” Ghandi believed that we should seek “not higher fortune, but deeper felicity.”
Wealth is a state of mind, not numbers on a pay stub. It is the comfort that comes from doing good work and the satisfaction of being justly rewarded for it.
Todd Finley, a professor of English Education at East Carolina University, believes, “The wealthiest person is someone who is able to spend the most living their values. It is also the person who is able to say, ‘I live a meaningful existence.’ Because nothing is more valuable and meaningful than preparing kids to be successful, we get to live in that state of security. Those who earn wealth to spend more time in leisure with more stuff don’t realize how that perspective impoverishes every moment.”
As teachers, the ideal way to increase our wealth is to do the work that we deem most valuable and necessary. And more often than not that means reversing the conventional wisdom. The conventional wisdom tells us that we must raise test scores. And when we do that, we will raise student achievement. But that single-minded focus on testing often makes teachers miserable. Their self-worth get tethered to a number. Exciting and creative lessons are abandoned in favor of drill-and-kill.
The more meaningful truth is that if we focus on long-term student achievement — teaching them the skills and frames of mind beyond the immediate purpose of a test — the scores will take of themselves.
That is how wealth is created, by empowering and enriching the lives of others beyond a single metric.
Sandra Jameson, an AP Language and Composition teacher, acknowledged, “I think wealth is all about perspective and attitude. I feel very wealthy. I make enough money to live comfortably, and more importantly I’m fulfilled emotionally and intellectually by my work. We can always find things to complain about. Are the hours long? Yes. Would it be nice to feel more respected by lawmakers? Absolutely. Would I like to be able to easily afford Hamilton tickets? You bet. But I’m lucky, and I know it. It’s all about keeping it in perspective and reminding myself every day how good I have it, how wealthy I really am when I add it all up.”
Some teachers, like Sandy, have come to terms with their sense of wealth and are being rewarded for the work that they do.
They enable others to see their best selves. They have impact by helping students — and other teachers — make sense of who they are and what they are capable of achieving. They have move beyond the expectations of others and have blazed their own trail.
Teacher Wealth Series
I’m going to share the success stories of teachers that have found ways to earn more while staying in the classroom. Some have found outlets beyond the school day to create a sense of wealth. Others gain so much satisfaction from the work that they do that they couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
And while I will be occasionally discussing the taboo subject of money, it will be a result, not a cause.
Best of all, in this multi-part series, I’m going to unravel the ways in which you can do it as well.
How do You Earn more Wealth?
Here are 6 Things to Do This Week:
- Don’t Look at Your Paycheck — If you are doing it for the paycheck, you are doing it for the wrong reasons. Be mindful of your sense of satisfaction on Fridays, not your monetary compensation.
- Do Something Extremely Generous for Another Person — It could be a colleague, a student, or someone in your building that is doing work that often goes unappreciated. Make his or her day, and in all likelihood, you will end up making yours as well.
- Smile More Often — Endorphins are released when we smile. Not only do they make us feel happy, they also help lower stress levels. They also act as the body’s natural pain killers. For sufferers of chronic pain, laughing and smiling can be very effective in pain management, as can laughing off the pain when you bump an elbow or fall over.
- Take Pride in Frugality — Benjamin Franklin said, ““The way to wealth is as plain as the way to market. It depends chiefly on two words, industry and frugality: that is, waste neither time nor money, but make the best use of both. Without industry and frugality nothing will do, and with them everything.”
- Make Fun a Priority — Give your students an unforgettable experience by playing a game, having a class competition, or doing something so novel that they are surprised in the best way possible.
- Think About What You Have to Offer — Many of the teachers I interviewed for this series have blogs, products, and services that are extensions of their teaching and earn them extra income. They do it because they love the work. The money they earn is a bonus. Think about what you can offer others that can enrich their lives.
Want to know Vicki Davis’ secrets to a successful teacher blog? Check out the next part in the series, here.